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Watford stadium proving a sanctuary for NHS staff

11 May 2020
Watford, Vicarage Road, NHS

Vicarage Road transformed into special hub with free facilities for frontline workers in battle against COVID-19

With their stadium next door to a hospital, Watford have long felt close to the National Health Service and this relationship has become even deeper during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The club have transformed their Vicarage Road stadium into "the Sanctuary", offering unique facilities and support to staff from the West Hertfordshire NHS Trust.

More than 1,000 NHS staff members are being fed each day at the stadium, which is next to Watford General Hospital. Hospital leaders have used the stadium meeting rooms and the the club’s laundry facilities have washed more than 10,000 pairs of scrubs.

The initiative has been welcomed by those NHS staff working 12-hour shifts and more.

"This is the hardest I have ever known it," said Gary James, a charge nurse. 

"To be able to walk somewhere and to be able to see an open space, the sky and to have a chat with your friends and not be so bogged down with everything that is going on, you can't explain how positive an impact that has had."

Phil Townsend, chairman of West Hertfordshire Hospitals NHS Trust and a loyal Watford fan, is grateful for the support.

"I've been a season-ticket holder here for well over 20 years, I come down here to support the club, to support the team, and it's absolutely wonderful that that role has been reversed, and what we now have is a football club completely supporting the hospital team and its staff," he told Watford's official website.

For club chairman Scott Duxbury, the initiative was the natural thing to do.

"It's entirely our privilege to feel we can in some way help the hospital during this difficult time," Duxbury said.

See: How our clubs have been helping the NHS

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